Monday, 16 October 2017
This past week has been busy – birthday time! Cake, breakfast, cake, pie, pad thai, dinner, cake, and birthday party. Considering all the festivities, I only gained 2 pounds. It’s been so much fun! And, after talking with a family member during a party, I came to the realization that some of us are in total avoidance about our futures, even more than I realized.
I was always the person who, like Scarlett O’Hara, always said, “Tomorrow is another day.” It’s true – tomorrow is always another day. But tomorrow needs to be acknowledged and planned for. There are some things we can control – like how much we spend and on what – and there are other things we can prepare for – such as natural disasters and old age. Natural disasters can occur any time, but old age follows a logical sequence, like 1, 2, 3. It’s the “tomorrow” syndrome that catches up with us.
In the US, one makes an appointment, or does it online, for Medicare. There are multiple stages for Medicare. The first one to sign up for, if you are still working, is Part A, which is hospitalization. It’s completely free. If you are still working, then it works in conjunction with your hospital coverage and your private insurance (if you have it). Later, when you know when you plan to retire, you apply for Part B, for which there is a co-pay. This is for office visits and, I think, prescriptions. In order to get it after 66, without a 10% penalty, you must show evidence of employer-based insurance. For me, this means through my job, or through my husband’s job. It is not through retirement-sponsored healthcare.
My understanding is that you must apply for Medicare Part A three months on either side of your 65th birthday. I made an appointment on August 18th at the local Social Security office, and by mid-September, my card arrived. A 30-minute appointment. I got a print out of everything, and now it is in a file drawer. (Aside, I probably should digitize it.)
At my birthday party this weekend, I found out that another family member, also just 65 in July, did not apply for Medicare Part A. Not at all . . . why? That is the big question. What is it that kept him from doing this? Denial? A dislike of the government? Avoidance? Eventually his wife made him do it online, I think within the required time frame, but he never got a card . . . so what happened? Too late? Digital issues?
Regardless, this was a serious issue in my eyes. The irresponsibility of it all is what I see. And from that, I had to look inward. We have been irresponsible in many ways, but are on the road to fixing that through efforts that seem like the labors of Hercules at times. It is this sense of being young forever that keeps many of us in denial. I also think it is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, too – a sense of having no control.
Being frugal means thinking ahead, giving up the present to work for the future. Our parents can lay a foundation, or not lay a foundation. It is us – me – the individual – who has to make the choice to be frugal and debt-free. Being married to a frugal partner helps, but not having one creates challenges financially and personally. Many marriages suffer because of money. Ours certainly did – and at times still does – but the big picture is showing payoff as we move along the time line of working off our debts. Our net worth has increased, our debt has decreased. At times we feel like we are in limbo. But we still move forward on our journey – not evenly – but steadily.
Now that I am closer to retirement, in hindsight, I wish I had done more planning. Like my family member, I was in denial. If I hadn’t taken the reins awhile ago, we would be in worse shape, always waiting for tomorrow, planning to do it tomorrow. Tomorrow is now today. Luckily, I am not in as bad as shape as others.